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Xavierpop Does @TADFilmFest – ‘Sushi Girl’ Is A Fantastically Dark Crime Thriller That Delivers

Sushi Girl is a crime thriller set to the tune of revenge and redemption. Exuding violence and intensity, it spins a yarn of a robbery gone badly, and the length men will go to get the spoils they stole. Featuring a star studded cast giving stellar performances, the film grabs you early and doesn’t let go until the final frame.

Fish (Noah Hathaway) has spent six years in jail and upon the day of his release, is picked up by a limo while Duke (Tony Todd) is busy setting up a dinner for him, and greeting gang members Crow (Mark Hamill), Max (Andy Mackenzie) and Francis (James Duval). Dinner consists of Nyotaimori, the practice of serving sashimi or sushi from the body of a woman, typically naked. After all the assembled criminals are gathered, Fish explains the meal before them and suggests they eat. Fish, thinking the only reason for the assembly is to get information about the missing loot from the robbery that sent him to jail, insists that whatever ill plans they have for him commence without all the niceties. The group is more than willing to fulfill that request. Interplaying the gang’s attempts to elicit information from Fish are flashbacks showing exactly what happened on the day of the robbery, and ultimately, what became of the loot.

Hyper violence is intermixed with intensely intimate moments, giving rise to a series of characters driven as much by their greed as their desire to commit violence. Mark Hamill is brilliant as Crow, a bloodthirsty sadist whose temperament and style is nearly a mirror image of fellow psychopath Andy Mackenzie‘s Max. Hamill’s gay character is light spoken and intelligent, Mackenzie is a lowbrow lout whose one redeeming feature is a willingness to kill. It seems two things keep them from killing one another. The desire for money, and the calm nature of ringmaster Duke. Tony Todd excels as being charmingly menacing while directing the focus on obtaining information from Fish. Todd oozes style and instills fear.  Never does Fish have confusion about why he is in this room, or what his ultimate fate will be, to him, it’s just a matter of how long. James Duval has an interesting role as Francis, an addict just off the wagon who is less interested in participating in the extraction methods than he is why. Through the long periods of dialogue, we are given expanding details about the men, their actions and how this group dynamic works. As for the Sushi Girl (Cortney Palm), she comes off as merely a prop to the criminals, but her subtle performance conveys a wide rance of emotions, mostly fear and disgust, that laying still under Sushi might not immediately seem possible.

Overall, the mystery of the missing loot, diamonds, is central to the films construct. While the setup early in the film is sex, money and food, the real reason for the gathering is torture. And there is plenty of that to go around. This is a violent movie, graphically violent. The banter and bickering between Crow and Max goes deeper than mere mutual dislike, its professional jealousy over the conflicting styles. This actually works very well to create some fun and interesting moments between the two, as well with the rest of the group. Several times Duke has to insist on one or the other stopping or the other from just killing Fish outright. Fish, well, he actually has made peace with his fate, and has no problem confronting and mocking his tormentors. All the time, the girl lays with Sushi on her, the men eating bits as the interrogation continues. First time director Kern Saxton co-wrote the script with Destin Pfaff. His treatment of the material shows an understanding of the medium that belies his limited experience.

Stylishly shot, it takes place mainly in a single room, with minimalist sepia shots during the flashbacks, and only the restaurant exterior. Such spartan settings allow the characters room to move and come alive without overly complicated filming techniques. With the exception of the flashbacks, it precedes much the same as a stage production might. Bright and colorful, it is wonderfully lit for maximum effect. The score weaves its way into and out of the film in a predictable, but no less excellent way. It emphasizes the action taking place rather than trying to set the mood alone.

While some may understand where the film is heading long before it gets there, the purpose of the film isn’t the destination, but the journey. It’s watching veteran actors playing angry, psychopathic criminals in action. It shouldn’t be nice, and it isn’t. It’s rough and graphic, harsh and mean, and ultimately it is exactly as it should be.

Recommended for those wanting an adult, dark crime thriller with more than just a touch of violence.